BELLE

Genre(s): Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Music

Age-Appropriateness: 12+ (dramatic scenes, mild violence)

Platforms: None for streaming, nearly all for renting

Episodes: One 2 hr. movie

TheAwersome Rating: 8.6 / 10 (Gorgeous, heartfelt)

Premise: Suzu is a shy, everyday high school student living in a rural village. For years, she has only been a shadow of herself. But when she enters “U”, a massive virtual world, she escapes into her online persona as Belle, a gorgeous and globally beloved singer. One day, her concert is interrupted by a monstrous creature chased by vigilantes. As their hunt escalates, Suzu embarks on an emotional quest to uncover the identity of this mysterious “beast” and to discover her true self in a world where you can be anyone.

TheAwersome’s Thoughts: This was a fascinating and delightful piece and experience. It’s a fresh experience for Japanese animation, as everything in “U” is done not only in the different medium of CG vs. hand-drawn animation, but done so in a much more global style of animation (read: Disney). This is from the same director, Mamoru Hosoda, who brought us MIRAI, so you can expect a similar level of human expression, experience, and very well-done moments. One thing to address is the definite nods to Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” There are a lot of sequences and general themes that are straight allusions/parallels, but at the end of the day, this isn’t that story. This is one of finding self-confidence, healing from trauma through helping others, the role that social media and alternate personas have in personal development, and the dangers of obsessing over order and rules.

TLDR: It’s full of beautiful moments visually, musically, emotionally, and artistically in story-telling. Definitely worth checking out If you get the chance.

Something I really liked about this is the subtle points that the director lets you put together. I feel too often, especially in Anime, there’s a desperate rush to answer all the questions in the final quarter and it feels like “The Exposition” chapter where you just listen to another story within the story. That isn’t the case here, but there’s good resolution for specific arcs that are shown, rather than specifically told and it felt like the creator trusted me with their work; that’s the beauty of “Show, don’t tell.”

While I haven’t had the opportunity to watch the dub, I’ve heard that it is also amazing, so that’s the word on the street. The soundtrack touches the soul, please partake of this goodness.

You’ll Likely Enjoy This if You Enjoyed:

  • The human animation and experience of MIRAI
  • Commentaries on technology’s social effects in SAO: GGO
  • Slightly more Disney-leaning anime such as A Whisker Away

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